A bizarre attempt to uncover what makes the 42nd president tick.
Employing a diagnosis he explored in The Hypomanic Edge (2005), Gartner (Psychology/Johns Hopkins Univ.) identifies Bill Clinton as “hypomanic,” a personality disorder he defines as characterized by excessive energy, creativity and charisma. The author relentlessly scatters “Look, that was hypomanic!” moments throughout the book as he traces Clinton’s life, but readers will soon conclude that these shed little light on what kind of president he was or man he is. Gartner promises that his book will treat its subject as a therapist would a patient. Since he never spent any actual time with Clinton, the “therapy” consists of a ham-handed and superficial accounting of how Clinton acted out childhood dramas during the central moments of his life, including the infamous rendezvous with Monica Lewinsky. The author fails to sustain even this slight approach: Clipping passages from the many accounts of the Clinton presidency, he assembles little more than a compilation. Gartner asserts early on that he is fond of the former president, but that hardly explains this hagiography. The gushing text explains away the former president’s missteps as misunderstandings, his political failures as the failure of the citizenry to understand how someone so smart and empathetic really just had their best interests at heart. Gossipy analysis and ’90s nostalgia make this silly book something of a guilty pleasure, but the author certainly hasn’t provided anything new or groundbreaking.
Gartner calls this a first-of-its-kind work of “psycho-journalism.” If this is the prototype, let’s hope production is halted.